Seed, Plate 26, Fig. 5.
Botanical description: Sweet Vernal Grass is a perennial, with a short rootstock and tufted stems. The stems reach a height of from half a foot to two feet and carry the leaves principally toward their base. The leaves are bright green, short and hairy along the margins, especially below. The flowers are arranged in a dense, spikelike panicle, which is green when young but later turns golden yellow. Each spikelet contains three flowers, two of which, however, are barren and greatly reduced. Each barren flower consists of a dark-coloured glume covered with dense, stiff hairs and provided with a strong knee-bent awn. The fertile flower, which is placed between the barren ones, is of the ordinary type, but contains only two stamens.
Geographical distribution: Sweet Vernal Grass is distributed over large areas of the Old World. It is common in most European countries, western and northern Asia, and parts of northern Africa. It has been introduced into North America and occurs especially in the eastern parts of Canada.
Habitat: It grows naturally in meadows, woods, gardens, and on almost any kind of soil. It prefers moist sands and loams, though it is little affected by drought.
Agricultural value: Sweet Vernal Grass is one of the earliest grasses. On account of its low growth and short leaves, however, the agricultural value is not great. It contains a sweet-smelling substance which, while giving the hay an agreeable odour, makes the taste of the plant bitter and not liked by stock.
It is the best plan to cut hay in the night while the dews are falling. - Pliny, Natural History, 23-79.
Awake, the morning shines, and the fresh field Calls us, we lose the prime, to mark how spring Our tended plants * * * * How nature paints her colours, how the bee Sits on the bloom extracting liquid sweet.
- Milton, Paradise Lost, 1669.
To obtain the knowledge the farmer needs, he must not only think about planting, but he must do it. - Cato, 98-46, B.C.